Charges dropped against schoolboys accused of hidden camera recordings in Hong Kong
‘Insufficient evidence’ prompts order for two 16-year-old defendants, as well as a third who pleaded guilty earlier, to report to probation officers
Two boys from a leading Hong Kong secondary school who pleaded not guilty to using hidden cameras to record girls changing had charges against them dropped on Friday, while a third schoolmate who pleaded guilty was given a one-year protection order.
After a closed-door Juvenile Court hearing in the morning, the prosecution dropped five charges against two of the 16-year-old defendants.
A source said the rare move was prompted by insufficient evidence.
Magistrate Lam Tsz-kan gave the third defendant, 16, who was the only one to plead guilty to two conspiracy charges, a one-year protection order. He needs to fly back from the United States every month to report to a probation officer on his progress in school there and on his behaviour.
But the source said his two co-defendants were also given a similar protection order.
The court heard earlier that the boys were accused of taking more than 40 videos and photos of schoolgirls, with the files shared on a Google drive folder called “vids for life”.
On Friday, lawyer Felix Ng Ka-ho, representing the third defendant who pleaded guilty, told the court during the open hearing session that the boy had apologised to his classmates.
“He was genuinely remorseful for what he did and apologised to the girls affected,” Ng said.
The boy said in court that he hoped for a new start in life.
“I am ready to shoulder my responsibility [in the case] and hopefully get into a good university.
“I hope one day to get a job and not be affected by what happened in the past,” he said.
The boy had previously pleaded guilty to helping another defendant place a smartphone in a girls’ changing room and acting as a lookout during the installation.
He was 14 years old at the time. He admitted to a probation officer that he committed the offence as he was seeking recognition from his peers and was curious about sex, but stressed that he never initiated the taking of videos and photos of victims.
The Juvenile Court heard more than 40 videos were recorded using GoPro and iPad cameras across four locations at the school for about six months starting in September 2016. Some of the videos were later uploaded to Google Drive and YouTube.
The two other boys, who pled not guilty, faced five counts including conspiracy and obtaining access to a computer with a view to dishonest gain. The maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment.
The defence previously challenged the submission of footage and photos at the trial, which were mostly from investigations by teachers. But the prosecution on Friday would not confirm if this contributed to the dropping of charges.
All three boys were ordered to report to the Juvenile Court at Eastern Court this December and February next year.
Neither the pupils nor the school can be named for legal reasons.